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January 24, 2022



New York

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How to make your memory work
1. Alternate between studying and sleeping.

The brain has two states: focused and diffused.

As you read this text, you are in the focused state. After a couple of hours of rest, your brain will be in a diffused state. It is at this point that new neural connections will begin to form in your brain.

Then new knowledge in the focused state and the formation of neural connections in the distracted state. And so it goes all the way through life.

We've been familiar with how the two brain states work since high school. But not from biology classes, but from literature classes. Remember how hard it was to tell a poem perfectly the day it was taught. You study it, you study it, and it never comes out. But the next morning you remember it perfectly. Why is that?

When we learn a poem, we are in focused mode. But the real memorization happens later - in a dream. Therefore, the model of "study → sleep → study" is much more effective than just "study → study → study. Sleep is useful.
2. Take regular breaks.

This tip is also related to focused and distracted brain modes. Studies show that humans can't be as focused as possible for long periods of time. We start getting distracted and doing five-minute tasks for hours at a time. Maximum focus time: 50 minutes.

To make learning easier, you need to give your brain a rest. A suitable option for most people would be 50 minutes of work and 10 minutes of rest. A regular timer or apps like Forest and Focus Booster will work to keep you on that regimen.

3. fight the forgetting curve

In the late 19th century, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus constructed a forgetting curve that showed how much real information a person could remember. Ebbinghaus was very persistent; for the sake of this experiment, he had to spend two years memorizing sets of meaningless syllables: DAX, BOK, YAT, etc.

The results of his study are disappointing:
After an hour, you'll remember only 44% of the information in this article - only 7 tips. After a week, less than 25%. After a month, you'll recall 20% or even less - that's a maximum of 3 tips out of 16. I hate the forgetting curve.

Most information is forgotten within the first hour of receiving it. To avoid this, you have to repeat the information. Repetition of memorized material decreases the rate of forgetting. The more repetitions, the better everything is remembered. It is necessary to make at least 4 approaches.

The first approach: immediately after acquiring new knowledge. To do this, textbooks have questions at the end of the chapter, and courses have intermediate assignments. Never do them? You lose 60% of the information.

Second approach: one day after reading. Discuss your new knowledge with friends or colleagues.

Third approach: 2-3 weeks later. Recall the material and repeat it in practice. Do a project in the course, if you have one. Introduce new approaches to your work. It is important to transfer knowledge to practice.

Fourth approach: 3 months after last repetition. Go back to the original material and repeat it. At this point, the new knowledge should already be part of your daily work.

Congratulations, the forgetting curve is defeated! That's the way she should be.

Repetition of material needs to be done right, too. Research shows that simply rereading material is not enough. Students who only reread new material performed 18-50% on the final test. Students who asked questions and discussed assignments scored between 30% and 75%.

Let's imagine that Lena read our article about unit economics. How can she remember as much information as possible?

First approach: answer the questions.

Second approach: discuss the new information with her friends.

Third approach: calculate the unit-economy for her startup. Lena wants to make a To-Do List app.

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